Google is teaming up with Fiat-Chrysler for the first self-driving minivans

A great move for introducing the tech to the public

When companies like Ford or Mercedes-Benz work on self-driving cars, they use their own hardware. After all, it’s the artificial intelligence and autonomous aspect that’s the new frontier for them. These companies have been manufacturing cars for around a century. Google, on the other hand, is good with software but needs to strike deals with manufacturers to realise its self-driving ambitions.

Google has teamed up with various manufacturers to research the technology, including Toyota and Lexus. According to a report by Bloomberg, Fiat-Chrysler will be the latest manufacturer to strike a deal with Google but this time it’s for minvans. Fiat-Chrysler have a lot of models at their disposal as the company also owns Jeep, Dodge, and Alfa Romeo among others.

Even if self-driving cars become 100% reliable this year, we won’t see them taking over our roads for many years. Governments will first have to debate the legal details of allowing self-driving cars on public roads. If there’s an accident, who is to blame? Different countries (or perhaps different states in the US) might have very different rules for what self-driving cars are and aren’t allowed to do.

A larger minivan would be a brilliant next-step for Google. Before they can get legal permission to sell autonomous cars to road users, they could launch self-driving taxi services on large business grounds or college campuses. Imagine a Google minivan that drives around a campus all day, taking the quickest route based on where everyone inside wants to go. A minivan is perfect for this sort of service off the public roads.

There’s no confirmation of which model Google will use but the 2017 Chrysler Pacificia would make the most sense. It’s a good size, it comes packed with tech such as cameras and touchscreens, and it’s a plug-in hybrid. It’s a minivan already designed for tomorrow so would fit well with Google’s vision. Modifying it for self-driving would be straight-forward and the integrated camera and touchscreen technology could be used by Google’s system. It seats up to 8 people, which would be perfect for trips around business grounds and campuses if Google do wish to launch a service before they can legally take over the roads.

Main image: Wikicommons user TastyPoutine, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license